Ah, winter … It’s the ideal time for hunkering down with big bad red wines, Port, Scotch and other manly libations to help thaw the cold and ice. But I refuse to let winter chill my soul. So along with the aforementioned, when I tire of shoveling snow and scraping the windshield, I find solace in the white wines of summer. It’s probably childish and unproductive, but I just refuse to let Old Man Winter get a stranglehold on me. So, from time to time, I throw a blanket on the living room floor and stage a mid-winter’s picnic.
The same technique has been known to work with beach blankets, flip-flops and mojitos. For a beautiful blast of summer in the dead of winter, turn to Saracina Mendocino County Sauvignon Blanc 2006 ($16). I’ve grown quite fond of Saracina lately, with its intensely floral, Loire-style white peach, pink grapefruit and jasmine flavors and aromas, all tied together with a marvelous mineral core. It’s a zesty wine without the over-the-top herbs-in-a-bottle character that mars so much Sauvignon Blanc these days. Nestled deep in the Catalan region of southwest France (a sub-region of the Languedoc-Roussillon which borders Spain) is Maison Lafage, where Jean-Marc Lafage turns out distinctive and affordable wines like his Coté Est 2007 ($10). A blend of 50 percent Grenache, 30 percent Chardonnay and 20 percent Marsanne, Coté Est delivers a lot of elegance for the price, thanks in large part to the 80-plusyears-old Grenache used in the mix. Crisp peach and apricot flavors with a hint of Asian pear and lime combine to make this a nice aperitif wine or good partner for lighter foods.
While we’re in the Languedoc, let’s head over to the Pic St. Loup wine district and visit Domaine de Lancyre for its delicious, unoaked Roussanne.
Domaine de Lancyre Roussanne 2007 ($20) is a big, crisp, sexy white that you’ll want to drink a little less chilled than normal to keep the acidity in balance. Lancyre Roussanne is mostly Roussanne (80 percent), blended with Marsanne (10 percent) and Viognier (10 percent). Remove the natural cork and you’ll think you’ve wandered into a flower shop; this is one strongly perfumed wine. On the tongue, there’s bright citrus (tangerine, orange and lime) and stone fruit (apricot and peach) flavors with good minerality, a spicy kick, nutty almond notes and surprisingly long finish.
Their Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc is a blending of Clairette and Grenache Blanc. The Clairette provides complexity and finesse while Grenache adds structure and acidity. As you’d expect, this lovely Chateauneuf-du-Pape has intense dried apricot aromas on the nose, along with traces of vanilla, imparted by oak barrels. Exotic fruit flavors (mango and pineapple) are dominant in this silky, soft wine, which I think still needs a couple of years to develop fully.
Take that, Old Man Winter.